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Thread: Morality as Performance

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    Veteran Member Wiploc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    I've been thinking about the etymology of the words 'good' and 'bad' as synonyms for ethical and unethical. It raises the question good at what? [emphasis added]
    I prefer good for what, or good to what.

    If morality is dictated by gods, we have no reason to be moral. At least not unless morality is good for something.
    Just calling god-made morality "good" in the abstract, without establishing what it is "good" for, makes it pointless, meaningless.

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    Tricksy Leftits Angry Floof's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Going to throw out some fodder into the morality forum, feel free to reply / disregard / whatever.

    I've been thinking about the etymology of the words 'good' and 'bad' as synonyms for ethical and unethical. It raises the question good at what? I think the implication is that the person who is 'good' is good at following implicit and explicit moral rules. Ok fair enough, but what's interesting to me about it is that it implies that morality is a domain of execution, that one can't really be intrinsically good or bad, but rather one performs in the moral domain. Our character is determined by how successfully we understand and follow moral norms.

    So it frames morality as a kind of biological adjunct, those with a better ability to follow and adhere to norms should be more successful, more often. And we should expect the brunt of most populations to be generally good at adhering to the customs of their social group.
    Determining if an action is moral requires examining it, not obedience to norms. You're conflating morality with conformity, which is pretty weird. How does this angle help clarify questions of morality? Conforming to cultural norms requires no effort while moral questions require thought, struggle, willingness to question, and acceptance of ambivalence and uncertainty. Kind of the opposite of what it takes to conform.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Going to throw out some fodder into the morality forum, feel free to reply / disregard / whatever.

    I've been thinking about the etymology of the words 'good' and 'bad' as synonyms for ethical and unethical. It raises the question good at what? I think the implication is that the person who is 'good' is good at following implicit and explicit moral rules. Ok fair enough, but what's interesting to me about it is that it implies that morality is a domain of execution, that one can't really be intrinsically good or bad, but rather one performs in the moral domain. Our character is determined by how successfully we understand and follow moral norms.

    So it frames morality as a kind of biological adjunct, those with a better ability to follow and adhere to norms should be more successful, more often. And we should expect the brunt of most populations to be generally good at adhering to the customs of their social group.
    I think you start with a questionable premise that leads you down a wrong path. It does need to be "good at" something. It could just be "good for" something. Good moral behaviors are good for human relationships. In fact, "good" is partly derived from proto Indo-European word "ged" meaning to unite or join. Morality is about how humans related to each other. So, the moral sense of "good" may actually precede the words use to refer to being good at some task that is not about human relations. Also, there is just a general positive valence to the concept of good, as in good-bad are words referring to the approach-avoid behavioral system that direct the behavior of almost everything in the animal kingdom. So, a person acting "good" is someone to be approached, and bad people are to be avoided.
    I can't pretend to know the history of the word exactly, but there is a clear connection between - the attribute of being good - and - performing to social expectations. Whether that makes you 'good at' or 'good for', either way morality is a domain of execution, which is what I was getting at.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Angry Floof View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Going to throw out some fodder into the morality forum, feel free to reply / disregard / whatever.

    I've been thinking about the etymology of the words 'good' and 'bad' as synonyms for ethical and unethical. It raises the question good at what? I think the implication is that the person who is 'good' is good at following implicit and explicit moral rules. Ok fair enough, but what's interesting to me about it is that it implies that morality is a domain of execution, that one can't really be intrinsically good or bad, but rather one performs in the moral domain. Our character is determined by how successfully we understand and follow moral norms.

    So it frames morality as a kind of biological adjunct, those with a better ability to follow and adhere to norms should be more successful, more often. And we should expect the brunt of most populations to be generally good at adhering to the customs of their social group.
    Determining if an action is moral requires examining it, not obedience to norms. You're conflating morality with conformity, which is pretty weird. How does this angle help clarify questions of morality? Conforming to cultural norms requires no effort while moral questions require thought, struggle, willingness to question, and acceptance of ambivalence and uncertainty. Kind of the opposite of what it takes to conform.
    That is an interesting perspective. When you think about it, the majority of behaviour with moral implications does come down to conforming - don't steal, don't cheat on your partner, don't hit others, don't insult others. Almost everything we do on a day to day basis comes down to following the basic, and benign patterns of our community. If we don't conform to the most basic rules that we take for granted we would be considered 'bad' people.

    I think what you're getting at is post-conventional morality, when we get into areas with shades of grey, where what is right isn't as obvious. People with exceedingly high moral standards typically choose to rise above solely what is conditioned, and do what is right for right's sake, not just because it's a pattern. But I think the brunt of what makes a society cohere isn't usually these types of moral choices, it's stopping at traffic lights, choosing to pay for your groceries etc.

    And this, I think, is why we see so many people who are quick to conform to basic rules and tradition, because this is a strategy that works most of the time. But I should add that my original point trends towards post-conventional morality as well, it's not just about following norms, but understanding implicit, non-obvious norms.

  5. Top | #15
    Tricksy Leftits Angry Floof's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Angry Floof View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Going to throw out some fodder into the morality forum, feel free to reply / disregard / whatever.

    I've been thinking about the etymology of the words 'good' and 'bad' as synonyms for ethical and unethical. It raises the question good at what? I think the implication is that the person who is 'good' is good at following implicit and explicit moral rules. Ok fair enough, but what's interesting to me about it is that it implies that morality is a domain of execution, that one can't really be intrinsically good or bad, but rather one performs in the moral domain. Our character is determined by how successfully we understand and follow moral norms.

    So it frames morality as a kind of biological adjunct, those with a better ability to follow and adhere to norms should be more successful, more often. And we should expect the brunt of most populations to be generally good at adhering to the customs of their social group.
    Determining if an action is moral requires examining it, not obedience to norms. You're conflating morality with conformity, which is pretty weird. How does this angle help clarify questions of morality? Conforming to cultural norms requires no effort while moral questions require thought, struggle, willingness to question, and acceptance of ambivalence and uncertainty. Kind of the opposite of what it takes to conform.
    That is an interesting perspective. When you think about it, the majority of behaviour with moral implications does come down to conforming - don't steal, don't cheat on your partner, don't hit others, don't insult others. Almost everything we do on a day to day basis comes down to following the basic, and benign patterns of our community. If we don't conform to the most basic rules that we take for granted we would be considered 'bad' people.

    I think what you're getting at is post-conventional morality, when we get into areas with shades of grey, where what is right isn't as obvious. People with exceedingly high moral standards typically choose to rise above solely what is conditioned, and do what is right for right's sake, not just because it's a pattern. But I think the brunt of what makes a society cohere isn't usually these types of moral choices, it's stopping at traffic lights, choosing to pay for your groceries etc.

    And this, I think, is why we see so many people who are quick to conform to basic rules and tradition, because this is a strategy that works most of the time. But I should add that my original point trends towards post-conventional morality as well, it's not just about following norms, but understanding implicit, non-obvious norms.
    OK. It sounds then like a convoluted way of describing a "needs of the many" philosophy of morality.

    Conformity is a behavior that is automatic and requires no thought or decision making whatsoever. We humans can choose to conform, but choosing and thinking are not necessary to conforming. Ants conform. Monkeys conform. Useful survival strategy for groups, but not morality by any stretch of the imagination. "Morality" implies thought and choice and self awareness. If you choose to conform as a matter of morality, you're essentially saying it's a moral act to consider your group and protect the collective over individual desires.

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    Super Moderator ruby sparks's Avatar
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    I'm not sure morality is essentially something we think about. In the first instance, it's an automatic reaction, an instinctive, intuitive value judgement. Yes, we can think about it after that, but our thinking is already coloured by the automatic response. That doesn't mean to say that we can't change our views after reflection. It just means that in the first instance, moral judgements are intuitive. If you see or hear about something you'd call a wrong, or something you feel is a wrong is done to you, or if you do it yourself, I think you feel it straight away.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

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    Tricksy Leftits Angry Floof's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    I'm not sure morality is essentially something we think about. In the first instance, it's an automatic reaction, an instinctive, intuitive value judgement. Yes, we can think about it after that, but our thinking is already coloured by the automatic response. That doesn't mean to say that we can't change our views after reflection. It just means that in the first instance, moral judgements are intuitive. If you see or hear about something you'd call a wrong, or something you feel is a wrong is done to you, or if you do it yourself, I think you feel it straight away.
    Even so, how is that "conformity"? I don't see how "following social norms" equates to "morality" unless you're talking about a specific moral philosophy of, as I said, "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

    We all act based on numerous influences, some social, some gut reaction, some trained reflex, and some consciously thought out decisions.

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    Super Moderator ruby sparks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angry Floof View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    I'm not sure morality is essentially something we think about. In the first instance, it's an automatic reaction, an instinctive, intuitive value judgement. Yes, we can think about it after that, but our thinking is already coloured by the automatic response. That doesn't mean to say that we can't change our views after reflection. It just means that in the first instance, moral judgements are intuitive. If you see or hear about something you'd call a wrong, or something you feel is a wrong is done to you, or if you do it yourself, I think you feel it straight away.
    Even so, how is that "conformity"? I don't see how "following social norms" equates to "morality" unless you're talking about a specific moral philosophy of, as I said, "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

    We all act based on numerous influences, some social, some gut reaction, some trained reflex, and some consciously thought out decisions.
    No sorry, I was just jumping in with a general comment on one particular thing. I wasn't really making a comment on conformity as such.

    But on that, I would say that conforming is one of a number of factors, or constraints. In a social species, conforming would be important.
    "Let us hope that it is not so. Or if it is, let us pray that the fact does not become generally known."

  9. Top | #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angry Floof View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post

    That is an interesting perspective. When you think about it, the majority of behaviour with moral implications does come down to conforming - don't steal, don't cheat on your partner, don't hit others, don't insult others. Almost everything we do on a day to day basis comes down to following the basic, and benign patterns of our community. If we don't conform to the most basic rules that we take for granted we would be considered 'bad' people.

    I think what you're getting at is post-conventional morality, when we get into areas with shades of grey, where what is right isn't as obvious. People with exceedingly high moral standards typically choose to rise above solely what is conditioned, and do what is right for right's sake, not just because it's a pattern. But I think the brunt of what makes a society cohere isn't usually these types of moral choices, it's stopping at traffic lights, choosing to pay for your groceries etc.

    And this, I think, is why we see so many people who are quick to conform to basic rules and tradition, because this is a strategy that works most of the time. But I should add that my original point trends towards post-conventional morality as well, it's not just about following norms, but understanding implicit, non-obvious norms.
    OK. It sounds then like a convoluted way of describing a "needs of the many" philosophy of morality.

    Conformity is a behavior that is automatic and requires no thought or decision making whatsoever. We humans can choose to conform, but choosing and thinking are not necessary to conforming. Ants conform. Monkeys conform. Useful survival strategy for groups, but not morality by any stretch of the imagination. "Morality" implies thought and choice and self awareness. If you choose to conform as a matter of morality, you're essentially saying it's a moral act to consider your group and protect the collective over individual desires.
    That's fair. I think this is where the distinction between Conventional and Post-Conventional morality comes into play (from Kohlberg's moral stages). To many people acting 'morally' means following social rules verbatim without any wiggle room. Everything is a black and white binary of 'good' or 'bad'. From your point of view this person isn't really moral. Fair enough, in a certain light I think you could say that, in another light they're moral but not critical thinkers or conscious of their own morality / lack thereof. These are conventional thinkers.

    The post-conventional thinker derives their own principles and lives by them. They may follow social rules because they choose to, and they may ignore some others because they don't find them to be good rules.

    What I'm getting at in the original post is that morals are derived from social norms, but not necessarily limited by social norms. For the post-conventional thinker the sky is the limit on which principles to live by. But more importantly they strive to understand implicit, unwritten rules that the conventional thinker doesn't even think to look at.

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